This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Territorial Contests

"The militarization of the situation would make it very clear that the Chinese objective is to impose physical control over some of the most sensitive international waterways in the world."
"It would show China's long-term intention, which is a permanent, physical, military presence in these waterways."
"We are moving to a far more dangerous phase where the Chinese are not merely asserting their claims, but cementing them in military terms."
Jonathan Eyal, head, international security studies, Royal United Services Institute, London
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015.
U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters  Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015.

China's claim to ownership of 90 percent of the South China Sea, believed to be a wealth of oil and gas, and its claim to the Spratly Islands overlap with similar claims of its neighbours; Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines Vietnam and Taiwan. Though the archipelago is over 1,2000 kilometres from the Chinese coast some of the world's most important shipping lanes are involved, and China's ambitions are making all concerned extremely alarmed.

Concerned enough to have reached the belief that the recent projects that China has embarked upon, building artificial islands inside the Spratly chain has a military purpose, though the Communist Party has spoken of the projects as being no different than any other country's investment in simple road-building and access to areas hitherto overlooked. It is simply land reclamation, something that many countries involve themselves in.

"The critical question now is what China does next. - Will it continue to build? Will it seek to expel other claimants to these islands -- perhaps putting down runways and aircraft here? Or will it stop"? asks Jonathan Pollock, specialist on U.S.-China relations at the Washington-based Brookings Institute.

All of the above, it seems. U.S. surveillance has detected two large artillery vehicles on one of the artificial islands in the South China Sea. The land reclamation projects appear increasingly to reflect military purposes. While China and the United States through president-to-president consultation on items such as climate change appear to be seeking a spirit of cooperation, the events of land reclamation and military outposts seem to belie normalization.

U.S. defence officials describe the sighted weapons as self-propelled artillery vehicles posing no threat to the United States or any American territories. Though, of course, if they pose a threat to U.S. allies, the United States is obligated to honour its promises to those allies by contesting Chinese claims to territory clearly not its own.

According to Mira Rapp Hooper, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, analysts have identified artillery on at least two of the Chinese land reclamation sites.

In its annual report on China's military power in early May the Pentagon issued warning that five outposts are emerging that could be useful to China for the placement of surveillance systems, harbours, an airfield and logistical support. To keep apprised of the situation, the U.S. has been flying surveillance in the region, leading China to file a formal complaint when a Navy P-8A Poseidon flew over one of the sites.

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Tardy Justice, But Justice Withall

"We've been in court every single day of the trial and we've heard the evidence. We know the facts, we know the truth."
"We are relieved that justice is being done. The pain inflicted upon us and our families from the crash and the drawn-out court case has left a huge impact on our family. It should not be experienced by others."
"I will never forget the look on my children's faces when I told them what happened. I will never forget the pain in their eyes and in their hearts."
LeeEllen Carroll, widow of Bryan Casey
Bryan Casey, 50, died March 31, 2011 after a two-vehicle crash on Highway 17 near Arnprior. Christy Natsis has been charged with drunk driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death.
Bryan Casey, 50, died March 31, 2011 after a two-vehicle crash on Highway 17 near Arnprior. Christy Natsis has been charged with drunk driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death.
Handout photo / Casey family

"Such conduct demonstrates a recklessness in creating a risk or danger to other users of the highway which, in considering the evidence of driving conduct, establishes a pattern of disregard for the safety of other users of the highway which amounts to a marked departure from the standard of care of a reasonably prudent driver."
"Mr. Casey, in spite of his elevated blood-alcohol level, perceived the danger presented by the presence of the Natsis vehicle entirely within his lane and reacted. He removed his foot from the accelerator, he applied his brakes, he began to turn his vehicle away and he reduced his speed ... thereby taking evasive action in an apparent and tragically unsuccessful attempt to avoid a collision with the Ford Expedition."
Ontario Court Justice Neil Kozloff

"It's been a very long trial. It was a very painful experience to lose my son Bryan in the prime of his life, and to experience and witness the grief and [heartbreak] and pain of LeeEllen and their children, Bryan's brothers and sisters, and our extended families in Ireland, the U.K. and Canada."
"Bryan was a good son and a credit to his family. May the good lord hold Bryan in the palm of his hand, until we meet again."
William 'Gus' Casey, father of Bryan Casey

The clear-cut, so obvious instance of driving while under the influence of alcohol causing death, was an outstanding example of how an accused with money is capable of hiring experienced trial lawyers who can string out a trial and engage in courtroom tactics geared to casting doubt on the professionalism of the Ontario Provincial Police whose evidence-gathering was not equal to the expectations of the defence lawyers, citing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A woman who was clearly inebriated, whose condition was witnessed by countless people who gave evidence against her, a woman whose self-absorption and arrogance was all too evident along with her incapacitated state, who was also responsible for causing pain and anguish to a grieving family having to sit through a series of courtroom charades unnecessary but for the need of the guilty to buy time. Whose 'rights' were violated when police reacted by finally cutting off her hour-long telephone conversation with a lawyer.

Christy Natsis, the Pembroke dentist who was disinterested in the ebbing life of a man she was responsible for killing, demanded medical treatment when she had no need of any. Never questioning the condition of the man she struck. She insisted throughout the years of her ongoing trial that she was guilty of nothing. Her legal team succeeded in manipulating the trial proceedings to cast doubt on the police evidence, and having critical evidence thrown out.

But despite the reading of her blood alcohol level more than two and a half times over the legal limit, no longer being admissible, and the scorn thrown by her legal team through manoeuvres on her behalf over the evidence given by professional police officers, other evidence was there to prove her guilt. From eyewitness accounts of a drunk woman leaving the Crazy Horse bar and backing her vehicle into a parked car before swerving at high speed on the highway to an incident where she narrowly missed hitting a concrete wall.

Had she struck that concrete wall during the 24-minute erratic drive on the highway she might be ruined her vehicle and perhaps been seriously injured herself. Instead, fate had her evade that wall, and instead slam head on into Bryan Casey's Dodge pickup, causing injuries from which he would never recover. Other witnesses including drivers, police officers and a paramedic stated the odour of alcohol was obvious on Ms. Natsis as was her seriously impeded gait.

Natsis crash Pictures released to the court show the scene of a crash between a black Ford Expedition and white pick-up truck on Highway 17 Thursday, March 31, 2011.

The elderly William Casey travelled frequently from England to Canada for the express purpose of attending Ottawa court hearings. The loss of his son, an engineer who worked at Chalk River, was a dreadful blow. Christie Natsis, 50, was found to have breached her bail conditions when she ignored the injunction that she abstain from alcohol, when she was seen buying alcohol at the Rideau Centre.

It took almost four years to see justice finally stand firmly and squarely in finding Christie Natsis guilty of a crime she denied committing. But on March 31, 2011, she chose to drink and drive, and her malfeasance turned into vehicular murder. As a first-time offender she can look forward to a sentence of between two and five years in prison. A well-earned punishment for a woman who had no regard for anyone but herself.

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Respect! For Whom?

"Every school that joins ROPSSAA [Region of Peel Secondary School Athletic Association], it's a voluntary membership. We will continue to adhere strictly to those constitutions and bylaws."
Paul Freier, chairman, ROPSSAA

"We assumed this was a senior boys' league and we thought it was exclusively for boys."
"Understand that free mixing is something that, generally speaking, we do not do, more so out of respect than anything."
"It's got nothing to do with discrimination."
Essa Abdool-Karim, soccer coach, ISNA [independent Islamic school, Mississauga, Ontario

"I said to my coach, 'I'd rather see everybody play. I don't want to ruin this for the rest of the team. Me and the other girl will sit out'."
Carla Biscoe, Caledon, Ontario
Carla Briscoe, 18, shown in the foreground during a game in December, is a senior at Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School in Caledon, Ontario. She is one of two girls on her school’s boys soccer team.
Courtesy of Briscoe family    Carla Briscoe, 18, shown in the foreground during a game in December, is a senior at Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School in Caledon, Ontario. She is one of two girls on her school’s boys soccer team.
Two girls on the senior boys' soccer team representing Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School, playing against a team comprised of all boys, were asked by their coach, halfway through a competitive game that had them scoring 3-1, to sit out the rest of the game. The game referee had been advised that the ISNA High team was unable to continue playing as a result of the presence of the two girls on the field.

Carla Briscoe, 18, is an enthusiastic player and wanted nothing more than to get on with the game. Presumably the other girl felt likewise. In a spirit of team cooperation they agreed to sit out the second half of the game. They had no wish to interfere with the rest of their team's play, particularly since some of the team members hadn't yet had their opportunity to get out on the field. It was, to be sure, an uncommon situation.

And the Catholic Secondary School went on to win the game in the end, 6-1. But, according to Paul Freier the rules governing sports in the region are precisely those formulated by the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations. In this instance if a sport is not available to girls at a school they have the right to become part of the boys' team, if they prove capable of success during a tryout. That's equality of opportunity.

An email was sent to the ISNA coach by Mr. Freier to ensure he knew that all schools that join their sports federation must respect those rules. They are free to leave the athletic association should they disagree with any of the rules. "This restraint is considered by some Canadian Muslims to be an expression of personal modesty and is not meant to be regarded as a personal insult or affront". explained Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

He was addressing the issue that in the Muslim faith there is a firm belief that no physical contact should be made with players of the opposite gender during sport events. The genders must not interact. This interpretation of Islamic code perhaps owes quite a bit to social culture and tradition emanating from the country of origin of Muslim Canadians who have emigrated and arrived in Canada to enable their young to have opportunities not available to them in their countries of origin.

The old adage of 'when in Rome' can never be repeated to excess. Respect given to the welcoming culture, particularly one where equality of opportunity is the norm is never misplaced.

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wishful Thinking

"I got scared. I was thinking, 'What should I do' I didn't know what to do. So I thought, I'm just going to throw this grenade and maybe just scare them away."
"Nobody claims to have seen me throw the grenade, and this soldier has testified that I was under the debris, and it couldn't have been me."
"Is my memory more accurate than a soldier who was actually there? On one side, I killed another person, and on the other side I didn't. So it does make a huge difference."
"I always hold to the hope that, you know, maybe my memories were not true."
Omar Khadr, Egyptian-Canadian Muslim terrorist suspect
Omar Khadr
Supplied/Bowden Institution  Omar Khadr

He was fifteen and had been groomed as a soldier of jihad. He and his brothers were exposed to all the values of Islamist jihad. It was a way of life. It was their family's intention that Omar Khadr and his older brothers be proud of who and what they were. And be faithful to the religion of peace that demands of its faithful that they be prepared to surrender their lives for Islam. And this is to be achieved by attacking non-Muslims, the faithless offensive to Islamist sensibilities.

Omar Khadr, like his brothers, was trained in guerrilla warfare, was a fedayeen and made his parents proud. He was born in Canada, but not exactly raised in Canada. His entire family lived for years in the bin Laden compound, committed members of al-Qaeda. Khadr senior was a fund raiser for al-Qaeda, he operated a 'charity' while in Canada whose proceeds were dedicated to jihad and al-Qaeda's activities in the sinful world of non-believers.

With that background, might intelligence agencies whose purpose is to protect the public vulnerable to attack by al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists, not believe Omar Khadr to remain committed to his father's aspirations for him as a faithful Muslim fanatic? Omar Khadr has expressed his sincere trust and belief in his father as a good and decent man. A man who died on the battlefield of jihad.

Khadr pleaded guilty to murder and terrorism, after his stay at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. His later recantation of his confession sounds rather whimsical in view of his expressed insecurity of memory; his own memory informing him that he was indeed guilty as charged, but finding solace in the belief that perhaps because of someone else's memory in the midst of the famous 'fog of war' that might make him innocent of the commission of murder.

But he remembered throwing the deadly grenade, knowing full well what it would accomplish despite his weaving and bobbing about it having the effect of 'scaring them away'. And the grenade he threw killed U.S. Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, a medic, and half-blinded another medic. American medics in fact saved this 15-year-old 'boy's' life.  As for his wish that his memories have failed him and he's innocent of what they inform him of; not bloody likely.

And as for his additional plaintive considerations: "I don't wish people to love me. I don't wish people to hate me. I just wish for people to just give me a chance", the response of many Canadians to those three wishes is no, no, no.

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The Brave New World of Jihadi Women

"There are clearly many human smugglers working within Syria right now, helping Syrian civilians escape the violence, and I wonder if there is a similar, perhaps even growing market, for those trying to escape after joining ISIL."
Joana Cook, researcher studying links between woman and jihad, King's College London

"It's particularly difficult for these families [of European Muslim girls responding to call to jihad]. For them, radicalization is happening on the Internet and outside the family sphere."
"For a girl of 14, I believe we can clearly save her from herself and save her from these barbarians."
Sebastien Pietrasanta, French lawmaker

Despite brutality, ISIL continues to recruit European teens
Severine Ali Mehenni holds pictures of her daughter Sahra, at her home in Lezignan Corbieres, France on October 2. Sahra is one of the more than 100 girls from France alone who have left to join Islamist militants in Syria. Fred Scheiber / AP Photo
Approximately six hundred Western girls and young woman have responded to the Islamist call to join jihadis in their brave new world of Islamism's latest caliphate. Inspired by the perceived romance of a new world opening before them, and anxious to become part of it, they conspire to leave their countries of birth and/or residence without the knowledge of their families, and travel clandestinely to Syria to become 'wives' of terrorists and 'mothers' of a newer generation.

Of the 600 girls and young women who did travel abroad to join the extremists only two are known to have escaped the war zone and the future that awaited them there. On the other hand it is estimated that up to 30 percent of the male foreign fighters have left the places they were so eager to arrive at, having experienced what a war zone is like and in particular one with no concessions made to human rights and compassion for others.

Squeamishness over torture, mutilation, beheading and crucifixion does not a good jihadi make. Distaste over difficulties with hygiene and modern-day conveniences, do not a good jihadi-bride make. Material possessions and pride in ownership, along with the willingess to set one's morals and sense of compassion high out of reach on a top shelf are signal necessities in that brave new world.

When the girls, who are mostly recruited over the Internet, charmed by the promises made that they will find fulfillment and grand purpose in their new roles with a husband who will cherish them forever, lavishing upon her love, respect and a lifestyle to be proud of -- arrive, they are 'married off' immediately. The estimated 20,000 foreign fighters, among them five thousand Europeans located in Syria, ensure there is no shortage of males anxious to find wives. In that sense, a supreme comfort.

All those numbers, given a steady increase of responses by both males and females, are expected to double by year's end. When they arrive among the jihadists women are no longer permitted the freedom to travel without a male chaperone, or among a group of other women. This information is contained in material published by Islamic State. Should they attempt to do otherwise they risk being lashed or even killed.

Instructions available through ebooks of advice relating to the experience of living under Islamic State reflect a radically circumscribed life. Within that lifestyle is limited access to modern comforts. The lack of basic medicine, limited electricity, and no autonomy whatsoever. "The lives of those teenage girls are very much controlled", Sara Khan, a British Muslim whose group Inspire campaigns against the danger of extremist recruiters, stated.

Odd nomenclature for such a group with their message of awareness and beware-ness, given that al-Qaeda's online magazine for Islamists uses the very same name in its title.

A woman believed to be British female jihadi Aqsa Mahmood, 20, (centre), pictured with friends
A woman believed to be British female jihadi Aqsa Mahmood, 20, (centre), pictured with friends Photo: Tim Stewart News

Two exceptions to the rule exist; one a Dutch teen who converted to Islam and was renamed Aicha who travelled to Syria to marry a Dutch jihadi fighter and returned months afterward, making her way to the border with Turkey to meet up with her mother who brought her back to the Netherlands where she was immediately arrested on suspicion of joining a terrorist organization. She has not been formally charged and was released from custody.

A second woman reconsidered after the experience of a few weeks in the clutches of the jihadists. A 25-year-old Briton took her toddler son to Raqqa, then decided she had erred, and called home. She travelled back into Turkey where her father met her. It is unknown how she managed to travel the 250 kilometres from Raqqa to the Turkish border city where her father met up with her to return her to Britain.

A 15-year-old French girl hid a Facebook account and Islamic veil from her family, moderate Muslims, managing to join a jihadi network. Once ensconced in a unit of the al-Qaeda offshoot Nusra Front, she became a prisoner. Her brother travelled into Syria to bring her home only to be turned away by the jihadists, while a French youth who had joined the group at approximately the same time was permitted to return home.

"Brides" harder to come by perhaps than eager recruits willing to fight, then deciding it isn't for them, after all.

From left: Kadiza Sultana, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase going through security at Gatwick airport
From left: Kadiza Sultana, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase going through security at Gatwick airport    Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA

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Iranian Tentacles of Terrorism

"No one can yet say whether this case is connected with a possible planned terrorist act or not."
Cypriot Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou

"This is a case which pertains to the security of the state and public disclosure could possibly adversely affect those interests."
Cypriot public prosecutor

"We are aware of media reports of an individual arrested in possession of a Canadian passport."
"Consular officials are in touch with local authorities. To protect the privacy of individuals concerned, further details on this case cannot be released."
Amy Mills, spokesperson, Department of Foreign Affairs, Ottawa
Lebanese supporters of Shi'ite Hezbollah movement gather in the southern town of Nabatiyeh
Lebanese supporters of Shi'ite Hezbollah movement gather in the southern town of Nabatiyeh on May 24, 2015, to watch a televised address by Hassan Nasrallah. Photo by AFP

The terrorist group that has made Lebanon its home base, with elected officials in the Lebanese parliament, a Lebanese Shiite movement that was designed and formed with the considerable assistance and inspiration of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, has succeeded in infiltrating Canada, just as Hamas ruling Gaza, has found a place in Canada among their supporters who have immigrated to Canada, holding Canadian passports.

Fundraising among supportive Canadians helps fuel their terrorist activities, as does their involvement in organized crime, in smuggling operations of weapons, drugs and illegal cigarettes. Just as the Taliban profits from poppy-growing in Afghanistan to fund their violent Islamist agendas, so too do these Islamist terrorist groups, whether Sunni or Shiite, turn to criminal activities for their operating costs.

A Lebanese man holding a Canadian passport has most recently been detained on the Island of Cyprus. The suspect only recently arrived on Cyprus, renting a house in whose basement was discovered ammonium nitrate fertilizer, famously used for explosives. Two tonnes of ammonium nitrate which were stored in 67,000 packages packed into 420 boxes were discovered along with 10,000 euros in cash.

The island is a well-known and popular destination for Israeli tourists. Israel maintains an embassy in Nicosia. Cypriot intelligence authorities conveyed to Israel's defence establishment that it is their belief Cyprus was meant to become a "point of export" for attacks to take place in Europe targeting Israeli and Jewish sites, including synagogues. According to a source within the IDF, Hezbollah may be the contractor behind the terrorist plan but "it is Iran ... behind the funding and training.

"This is a terror infrastructure ready to strike the moment it is given a chance, like the one in Burgas", they said, referencing a 2012 terror attack attributed to Hezbollah that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian driver at the Black Sea city of Burgas. "This is additional proof of Iran's involvement in terror and the infrastructure of operatives, instructors and funders it provides".

Two years earlier a Cyprus court tried and convicted a dual Swedish Lebanese citizen for being part of a plot to attack Israeli tourists in Cyprus. Hossam Taleb Yaacoub had himself testified to being a paid member of Hezbollah. And it was a Lebanese-Canadian, Hassan El-Hajj Hassan who was identified as a key suspect in the 2012 Hezbollah-linked bus bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists.

He is believed to be in Lebanon. He was added to the U.S. State Department's list of 'Specially Designated Global Terrorists'. The Islamic Republic of Iran has its signature behind all of Hezbollah's terrorist activities aimed at killing Israelis or Jews. Iran uses its proxy terrorist militia as a support for Syria's Baathist government of mass murdering President al-Assad. Iraq is being defended against the equally atrocious attacks by Sunni Islamists like al-Nusra and Islamic State by Shiite militias loyal to Iran.

The factions are busy attacking one another and on the sidelines innocent civilians desperate to escape the bloodbaths each bring to the Middle East. But all the action that takes place in that misbegotten part of the world and in south Asia in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Burma and Bangladesh, just doesn't suffice to satisfy the martyrdom-complex blood-lust of Hezbollah, reaching out to Europe and the West for other victims as well.

At the behest and obey instructions from Iran. The very country that insists its goal in succeeding with its nuclear experimentation and production is solely for peaceful purposes.

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Actions And Consequences

"But the point I want to stress is that criminals will be punished whether they're young, whether they're old, whether they're male, whether they're female, whether they're criminals abroad or criminals at home."
"Criminals will be punished, and to participate in the kind of barbarism that we have seen so often in the Middle East is just wrong. It's morally wrong and it's a crime under Australian law and it will be punished."
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott

"[Government will] take a pragmatic approach in relation to children, particularly infants [deciding about revoking citizenship]."
"There's a common-sense approach here, but if adults have broken the Australian law, if they've involved themselves in killings within Syria or elsewhere, they will face the Australian law."
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Canberra
Sharrouf (right) posted photos of himself and a boy he claimed was his son holding a decapitated head
The seven-year-old Australian boy who, at the proud behest of his jihadist father fighting with the Islamic State in Syria, made a concerted effort to awkwardly hold up the head of a Syrian soldier by its hair for ISIL propaganda effect has become once again newsworthy. His mother has decided she's had enough of the conflict in Syria and plans to bring her five children back to Sydney.

The conundrum here is how the government of Australia will react to their return. The issue is the protection of Australian citizens and the differentiation between victims of terrorism and terrorists themselves. The woman's husband is Khaled Sharrouf, convicted of terrorism, but born in Sydney. His pride in posting a photograph of his youngest son with arm extended, struggling to hold up the severed head of a man in a gruesome display of barbarism indicts him.

Does it also indict his wife, and the seven-year-old? The ISIL jihadi posted photographs of his three boys in matching camouflage fatigues, miniatures of their father, armed with assault rifles with an Islamic State backdrop. Sharrouf's wife is a convert to Islam. And Tara Nettleton has decided that her three sons and two teenage daughters need to return to Sydney.

Sharrouf also uploaded a photo of him and his sons dressed in identical camouflage fatigues wielding machine guns
Sharrouf also uploaded a photo of him and his sons dressed in identical camouflage fatigues wielding machine guns

As far as the Prime Minister of Australia is concerned the children should appear as juvenile offenders before Australian courts if they are to be accused of taking part in terrorism. It is unknown whether or not Khaled Sharrouf himself plans to return to Australia. His passport was cancelled, he faces a warrant for his arrest on terrorism offences, in Australia.

When his wife took their children to Syria she hid their destination from Sydney airport officials. The country's new counterterrorism laws reflect a tough new standard; plans to so much as visit the Islamic State's headquarters of al-Raqqa province in Syria represents a criminal offence whose punishment can be up to ten years in prison.

The passports of dozens of suspected extremists have been cancelled.

The idea is to prevent jihadist aspirants from leaving the country, and it also has the effect of leaving foreign fighters from Australia stranded where they are, in Syria. In the near future for the country is a plan to pass legislation allowing the government to strip citizenship from dual nationals suspected of terrorism, whether or not they are convicted of a crime.

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Do As I Say, Not As I Do? Caught with Fingers in the Till

"Some of those people would be [hired on sole-source contract] because they have expertise and experience in things we needed help with."
"We really do try to limit the number of contracts issued to former employees, but it does happen [sole-source contracting out] from time to time."
Auditor General of Canada, Michael Ferguson

Over a three year period a number of contracts were given to former Office of the Auditor General employees. Who were retired, but invited back  to the OAG to perform their old functions in auditing, and who received payment in sums hovering below the $25,000 limit on sole-sourced contracts. Moreover some of those contracts were expanded and their value increased, above the threshold figure.

This represents a practise frowned upon by former Auditor General Sheila Fraser who gave warning about such contacting practices in the past. She had stated that government departments "must fully justify the decision to use an exception to competitive bidding", zeroing in on Public Works and Government Services Canada, in 2008. She cautioned as well about amending contracts, changing the description of the work.

Now here is her successor -- who like her, lauded and famous for holding government departments' feet to the fire over questionable and wasteful practices -- doing precisely within his own group, what he and his predecessor frown upon as unethical, untrustworthy practise. One of the individuals who received OAG multiple contracts had served as principal of the human resources management audit team during Sheila Fraser's tenure.

Her contracts were valued at $24,930, $22,599 and $24, 999.38; eking out just under the limit of $25,000, for services described as "accounting and audit services". Another former employee whose working life with the OAG ended in November of 2014, received a $23,400 contract which was later amended and its value increased to $42,900. And there are quite a few more such instances.

The Office of the Auditor General in its own defence insists contracts were increased in value over the tendering threshold reflecting "operational needs" and that it was held to be in the public interest to amend the contracts. "In deciding whether to amend the contracts, we considered the nature, complexity and sensitivity of the accounting and audit service work involved", explained an OAG spokesperson.

"Having considered those factors, we determined that it would not have been in the public interest, and it would not be a good use of public funds, to have another contractor replace those contractors or restart the accounting and audit services work", she advised.

And while it is fairly common for government employees to act as consultants after leaving or retiring from a government department, the questionable sole-source contracts priced directly under the limit appears that the OAG, while critical of other government departments, was itself setting the terms of work they are themselves engaged in to deliberately bypass the tendering process, considered sacrosanct for others, not for themselves.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Maintaining Global Diplomacy

"The PSI [Proliferation Security Initiative] promotes cooperation by the states best-positioned to act based on their national capacities, using a wide array of military diplomatic and law enforcement tools."
U.S. news release pre annual conference

"We would like to remind the international community that Russia, being a key partner in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and a full member of the PSI, is not seeking any favours from Canada."
"[The Government of Canada is] fanning anti-Russian hysterics for domestic political considerations; [its] narrow-minded manner [is] inappropriate and counter-productive."
"We will be sure to provide a response to these hostile actions."
"[It is] regrettable [that Canada] has acted contrary to common sense [unilaterally blocking a country from an international event] that happens to be held on its territory."
Russian Foreign Ministry

"While Canada opposes Russia's actions in Ukraine and is right to do so, it would be counterproductive to downgrade cooperation in other areas where we have common interests with Russia, including the proliferation of WMDs [weapons of mass destruction]."
Roland Paris, international relations expert, University of Ottawa

Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks past Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit Thursday Sept.5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS
A Russian delegation failed to obtain a visa to attend an international conference in Ottawa whose function is directly related to halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Two Russian officials in "an openly unfriendly move that contradicts the normal practice of multilateral events" as described by the foreign affairs ministry of Russia, were barred from entry to Canada.

The Proliferation Security Initiative, established in 2003 to respond to global concerns over the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons is holding its annual conference in Ottawa. Officials from 21 countries are expected to attend in the interests of discussing trends and efforts to cope with WMD proliferation. The three-day meeting is seen as essential in combating the spread of large-scale weapons.

The two diplomats working in the Russian Foreign Ministry's non-proliferation and arms control section were refused visas for the purpose of attending the conference, according to the Russian Embassy in Ottawa. Ottawa's frigid relations with Moscow has seen it set aside most issues, diplomatic and otherwise, in response to Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

When a Russian delegation was given permission to visit Iqaluit in April to attend a high-level international summit on the Arctic, Leona Aglukaq, Canada's Environment Minister, scolded her Russian counterpart over the recent actions by the Kremlin in Ukraine where Russian soldiers and Russian arms were conspiring with ethnic Russian-Ukraines to tear Ukraine apart.

On a strictly nation-to-nation basis, let alone the occasion of international conferences, it would seem far more useful for countries to engage with one another, however frostily, to ensure that communication remains possible, even when one of the parties is behaving in an untenable, dangerous manner threatening to destabilize global security.

Contact with a sane administration might conceivably stabilize the lunacy of an over-reaching imperialist in the Russian presidency.

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Iraq's Will Power Problem

"Churchill said back at the beginning of the 20th century, you can destroy an army very quickly, and effectively; we did that when we disbanded the Iraqi military back in 2003. It can take a generation to build a strong, capable military that is going to win this sort of campaign."
"[Sending more international troops to help Iraq fight jihadists would not solve its] will power [problem]."
Retired Maj.-Gen. Tim Cross, senior British officer in 2003 Iraq invasion

"It makes my heart bleed because we lost Ramadi, but I can assure you we can bring it back soon. In days."
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi 

"Today, there is nobody in confrontation with (ISIL) except the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as nations who are next to Iran or supported by Iran."
"[The United States did not do] a damn thing [to stop ISIL from its seizure of Ramadi]."
Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head, al-Quds unit, Iranian Revolutionary Guard
Giving ISIL the battle they want in Iraq

Oops! Isn't this the same General Soleimani who was prepared, with his Iranian special forces regiment to wipe up-and-out the Islamic State? This resolutely fierce soldier whose battle acumen, experience and strategic capabilities would make quick work of the Islamist fanatics? Who better to counter Islamist fanatics than other Islamist fanatics?

Why should a country whose troops travel halfway across the world to arrive in Iraq sacrifice its military men, when Iraq has neighbours dedicated to its defence, after all? The Islamic Republic of Iran knows well the fierceness of battle; it sent tens of thousands of its youth into mined battlefields to clear the way for its seasoned fighters during its years of warfare with Iraq under a previous, Sunni-led government that detested the Shiites governing the Republic.

Now the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is presenting an adversarial war with no holds barred; willing suicide bombers in contrast to Iran's former suicidal volunteers whom the ayatollahs convinced it was their duty to die for Islam. The Sunni jihadists are simply carrying it a step further, and in the process demonstrating that they have no need to send children to die; they're willing themselves to martyrdom for their cause.

So they've unleashed another wave of suicide attacks: target, the army of Iraq present in western Anbar province. The boast by Iraq's prime minister that all it would take would be days before his troops could oust the Islamic State interlopers hasn't yet seen the day arrive. The wide-scale operation to recapture ISIL-controlled areas in Anbar is being challenged.

Brig.Gen. Saad Maan Ibrahim, speaking for the Joint Military Command described attacks taking place outside Fallujah last night when the jihadis struck army forces deployed for the Anbar offensive. Call them what one will, the jihadis plan carefully and brilliantly, taking advantage of a sandstorm to launch their deadly wave of suicide bombings that hit the military from multiple directions.

Backed by Shiite militias and supposedly Sunni pro-government forces, the Iraqi operation to retake Anbar is a crucial step in creating momentum to counter Islamic State. A jihadist group which, irrespective of months of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against their positions, was still able to advance to launch battles in both Syria and Iraq; in the process taking two critical towns, Ramadi and Palmyra.

Moreover, according to Syrian activists ISIL remains busy cementing its reputation for ruthlessly vicious atrocities. They accused fifteen men of fighting with President Assad's troops, brought them to the Roman theatre in Palmyra, gathered people to watch the proceedings and shot them to death. Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem is also critical of the U.S.-led coalition.

ISIL advances in Syria, Iraq

Pointing out its commitment in preventing the Kurdish town of Kobani from falling to ISIL last year, but bemoaning the support that "evaporated" after that signal event. "We're not pinning any hopes on that alliance, and anyone who does is living an illusion", he commented. Iraq and Syria, he pointed out, were fighting the same battle, but security coordination has not been entirely reached satisfactorily.

Certainly they're fighting the same battle; the Sunni jihadists are challenging the Shiite governments in both countries. Which brought the situation on themselves by oppressing and victimizing their own Sunni populations, leading them to join ranks with the jihadists, seeking recourse to Islamic-style justice.

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Heads Up ... Attack Ads!

"We just feel there is a need for a voice to counter that of labour unions that have been getting highly politicized. We're trying to represent the other side of that discussion."
"It is very much a union-agenda type of platform. He [Justin Trudeau] has put out more tangible things like taking the TFSA (tax-free savings account) limit back and the so-called tax-the-rich policy."
Catherine Swift, (former) small-business lobbyist
A new Conservative attack ad — “Justin Trudeau — just not ready” — is a departure from the vicious broadside that greeted him when he became Liberal leader.

The writ will not be dropped for some time yet. And since it will not, and since Canada will engage in a federal general election to take place on October 19, non-political parties can have a field day. Restrictions on election and advertising spending that places constraints on political parties don't impact on third party supporters.

"What we're looking at now is probably the beginning of a mini blitz before summer. Because we're in a quasi-permanent campaign mode, it makes sense for the parties to come out with a mini blitz, to test their theories ... they're a trial balloon in a way", explained Claude Denis, professor in the School of Political Studies, specializing in political communications, from the University of Ottawa.

The Conservative election adverts launched online and on television stress the proven leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, comparing his experience and level-headed steering of the country in an unambiguously moral manner, and toward economic solvency when the global economy was in dire straits, certainly compares favourably with his adversaries who have had no such experience, and whose electoral promises are less than persuasive.

A conservative political interest group, identified as anti-union has launched their own Television and Internet election ads stressing the unsuitability to lead at the national level of the leader of the Liberal Part of Canada. The party whose run of leaders incapable of firing the public imagination led them to select a name from the past. And it is the name that propelled Justin Trudeau into the limelight and the leadership of the party.

One of the ads of that interest group named Working Canadians, linked to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business points out how "very lucky" Trudeau is for inheriting "a famous name, a fast-track to the top". It points out that though most Canadians recognize a personal need to give to charity, this man, while a handsomely-paid Member of Parliament, accepted paid speaking engagements for charitable causes.

"Can he relate to us?", asks another advertisement. Speaking of a Liberal leader who "consistently votes against tax cuts for seniors and families. Can someone who has never had to worry about money or their job possibly understand those who do? Trudeau: he doesn't understand middle class families and he never will", spoke the advertisement.

A fair enough summation of what this young man of privilege aspiring to become the next Prime Minister of Canada represents. And this, without even going into the litany of gaffes and examples of revealed thoughts that mark him out as an intellectual light-weight, with an imperfect view of the world and the responsibilities of a mature and thoughtful leader.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Conduit Compromised

"I've been there [Cross Cultural Roundtable on National Security] longer than Stephen Harper has been prime minister."
"I've probably done more than anyone else in Canada [to intervene with vulnerable Muslim youth becoming radicalized]. And because we're exposed to certain information that's not public and we work with the RCMP and CSIS, I have security clearance and my background has been vetted. There are no links to anything of concern."
Hussein Hamdani, lawyer, Hamilton, Ontario
Video thumbnail for 3 questions with Hussein Hamdani
Hussain Hamdani

"An independent and non-partisan website describing the means and methods used by Islamist organizations and leaders in order to further their program in Canada."
Point de Bascule, blog, Marc Lebuis
Hamdani IRFAN Day Hamas
Another organization led by Hussein Hamdani also collaborated with ISNA-Canada AFTER the charitable status of one of its substructures was revoked because it was involved in the funding of an entity linked with terrorism.

Well, certainly this is a well-connected man who appears, over the years, to have ingratiated himself with government agencies who have become reliant on his cooperation and advice, giving Canada's security agencies some ingress into the Muslim community because of Mr. Hamdani's status within that community. A man who has been trusted and whose advice has been relied upon, it would seem.

And suddenly - not. Investigators with the Quebec-based blog, Point de Bascule, appear to have unveiled some unsavoury allegations targeting the man. Uncovering little hints here and there that all is not as it appears. Fitting snugly into that old adage that where there's smoke, there's fire, the government agencies which once relied upon the man have now distanced themselves from him, and he is rather upset.

The Cross Cultural Roundtable on National Security where Mr. Hamdani has sat as a member since 1995 boasts 15 members representing different ethno-cultural communities in Canada, as befits an immigrant-based pluralist society. Their function is to bridge any possible gaps of understanding between the communities and government. When they meet they "focus on emerging developments in national security matters and their impact on Canada's diverse and pluralistic society".

It's odd that before the Point de Bascule blog highlighted some of Mr. Hamdani's quite questionable alliances, including accommodation with the Muslim Brotherhood, raising funds that benefit jihad, arranging conferences with al-Qaeda links, his allegiance to Canada and to moderating between Muslims who might pose a threat to Canada was never questioned. Though the blog's editor, Mr. Lebuis was asked to testify before the Senate's Committee on National Security and Defence.

As matters now present themselves, Mr. Hamdani himself dismisses any suspicions lodged against him as political, a reflection of his support for the federal Liberal Party. His role in organizing a World Muslim Summit in Toronto with questionable background certainly singles him out with a question mark. His travel to the West Bank and meeting with Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, raises many questions.

But Mr. Hamdani scorns those questions, casting aspersions instead on the political agenda of the Conservative-led government, infused with 'Islamophobia' and intent on sowing fear and distrust among Canadians for Muslim citizens. "There's a campaign to make Canadians afraid of Muslims and the religion of Islam", he contends predictably. As though Islamists themselves haven't caused fear by their actions and suspicion of Islamic injunctions to violent jihad.

"The corollary is that only the Conservatives can save us from the Muslims, so they frighten people before the federal election", he averred smugly. "At best, it speaks volumes of the low regard for security agencies that protect Canadians, and at worst it's a political witch hunt based on innuendos and guilt by association", added Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

"The decision to suspend Hamdani has damaged the trust of Canadian Muslims. It really calls into question whether the government wants to work with Canadian Muslims or use them as a political punching bag." A position supported by the lead author of a report published by the Centre for American Progress on anti-Islam organizations who states that Point de Bascule may represent a portion of an international "Islamophobia network".

Sounds awfully familiar, just about all of it.

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Why, They're Simply Entitlements...!

Ah, the Red Chamber of Parliament. The hugely respected Senate of Canada. Which has seen its reputation for responsible behaviour on the part of a number of ethically-challenged Senators take a tumble in the last few years when it was revealed that some in the Chamber don't give it a second thought about claiming significant expenses for which they are not entitled. Oh well, it's only taxpayer-funded money they're claiming as their just due.
An overview of a ceremony in the Senate. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)

"The total, including those (roughly ten senators who should be referred to the RCMP) that we will be reporting on is about 30."
"A lot of our message around the Senate audit will be talking about accountability and transparency"
Michael Ferguson, Auditor General of Canada

"The appointment of an independent arbitrator ensures that questions of reimbursement will be dealt with in a timely and fair fashion."
"All decisions by the special arbitrator and CIBA [the standing committee on internal economy, budgets and administration] will be made public, in line with our commitment to transparency and accountability."
Senate Speaker Leo Housakos, chairman of CIBA

The Auditor General's audit teams undertook an intensive review of two years of spending receipts on the part of 117 past and current senators. Travel spending, telephone calls, office contracts, lunch receipts and residency claims were all examined closely. This two-year exercise points to housing and travel claims to be the most questionable of all expense claims. Some of the claims are in excess of $100,000.

Thirty former and current Senators appear to have been of most interest to the auditors; their claims setting off alarm bells. Of that number 20 have begun repaying expense claims. The remaining ten have had their claims referred to the RCMP for deeper scrutiny revolving around criminal charges. The audit itself will have cost the government about $21 million to pursue.

Those Senators who face serious allegations of improper spending, most of whom are now retired will have an avenue of appeal open to them, through a special arbitrator. The Senate committee on internal economy has announced the appointment of a retired Supreme Court judge to resolve any disputes from Senators who choose to challenge the audit findings.

For those Senators who will be charged with a criminal offence and who may be found guilty in a court of law, perhaps it would represent the full weight of justice to deny them their fairly hefty retirement benefits. Nothing, however, has been discussed with respect to that particular bit of potential care of tax dollars.

And no little amount of questioning has gone on in the press corps over revelations that the office of the auditor general itself has chosen to spend over $23,000 on entertainment for its auditors, explaining it to be an aid to cohesion among the auditors. Those team-building events took place at the Britannia Yacht Club, at a curling rink at an adventure park, and other locales.

The auditors, like the Senators, evidently are paid insufficiently to allow them to pay for their own entertainment.

"We feel that's important in order to make sure our employees are engaged, that they're proud to work in the office of the auditor general, and that helps us with retention", explained Mr. Ferguson. "It's cheaper to retain your employees than to have to hire new ones. So we think there's a business reason. We're very conscious of the cost."

What!?! They're not impressed by their well-earned salaries far in excess of what most ordinary people could envision? Well, then!

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Gatestone Institute

Translations of this item:
  • Hackers claiming to belong to the Islamic State attacked TV5Monde, a French television network, and knocked it off the air globally. The network broadcasts in more than 200 countries. "Our websites and social media sites are no longer under our control." — Yves Bigot, Director General, TV5Monde.
  • "We hate no one. We fight for our freedom and hence we object to totalitarian Islam, but we do not hate Muslims.... I am happy that we in the Netherlands and in Germany are allowed to demonstrate against each other. Without violence. Without hatred." — Geert Wilders, Dresden, Germany, April 13, 2015.
  • "I've come here [to Syria] to behead infidels. I am ready. At some point, we'll be in Switzerland." — Jihadist who has had a Swiss passport since 1995, in a social media message.
In Austria, a new report from the Federal Criminal Police (Bundeskriminalamt) revealed that 34,070 illegal immigrants arrived in Austria in 2014, a 24% jump over 2013. Most of the migrants came from Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Eritrea and Kosovo. More than half, roughly 20,750 of the migrants, hired smugglers to bring them to Austria; the remainder arrived on their own. More than two-thirds of the migrants arrived from Italy (51.6%) and Hungary (34.4%).

On April 7, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz called on the European Union to launch a military operation against the Islamic State. He also called for a crackdown on so-called foreign fighters in Europe. Kurz said: "We are a militarily neutral country, but in terms of the Islamic State, our position is clear: Humanitarian aid for the victims is necessary, but much more needs to be done."

Also in April, a 17-year-old girl whose parents sent her to an Asian Muslim country to be married against her will was returned to Austria after she managed to alert the Austrian foreign ministry about her plight. Because of loopholes in the law, the girl's parents, Muslim immigrants still living in Austria, were not punished.

As a future deterrent, Austrian Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstätter said the government would ask Parliament to approve an amendment to Section 106a of the Austrian criminal code to stipulate that anyone convicted of coercing someone into marriage could face up to five years in prison. Some 200 Austrian women and girls are subjected to a forced marriage each year.

Meanwhile, a "tolerance survey" found that 65% of Austrians are opposed to a family member converting to Islam, and 64% are opposed to the building of a mosque in their neighborhood.

In Britain, Irfan Chishti, an imam from the Rochdale Council of Mosques, warned that the reach of the Islamic State is spreading "far and fast" throughout the British Muslim community. "No one is immune to it, he said. "The tentacles of ISIS really are spreading so quickly, not just into homes but into palms, via the internet on phones."

On April 5, the Sunday Times reported as many as 100 Islamist teachers and teaching assistants could face lifetime bans from working in schools as a result of an investigation into their alleged links to the so-called Trojan Horse scandal. The paper revealed that the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), the profession's watchdog that can ban teachers from classrooms, was considering possible disciplinary cases against current and former staff members at schools in Birmingham, where hardline Islamists were attempting to take control of state schools.

In London, a court ruled that a Libyan immigrant, convicted of more than 70 criminal offenses, would be allowed to remain in the UK because he is an alcoholic. The 53-year-old man, who first came to Britain to study aeronautical engineering in 1981, successfully argued that he would face physical punishment and imprisonment in his homeland, where alcohol consumption is illegal. Judge Jonathan Perkins ruled that returning the man to Libya would "expose him to a risk of ill-treatment" and "interfere disproportionately with his private and family life."

In Birmingham, Mohammed Waqar, 23, and Mohammed Siddique, 60, pleaded not guilty to charges that they had beaten a ten-year-old boy at the Jamia Mosque in Sparkbrook for wrongly reciting the Koran. The two men face up to ten years in prison for the offense of cruelty to a person under 16.
 More news about Islam in Britain during April 2015 can be found here.

In Bulgaria, public prosecutors pressed charges against eight Islamists for carrying out subversive activities. All of the defendants were accused of being members of an Islamic extremist group that spread Islamist propaganda, including calls for the establishment of Islamic Sharia law in Bulgaria. The move is part of a broader crackdown on Islamic extremism in the country, where Muslims make up approximately 10% of the total population.

In Denmark, a 23-year-old man from Copenhagen had his passport confiscated after he was suspected of attempting to join the Islamic State in Syria. It was the first use of a new law that came into effect on March 1 that gives police the right to confiscate passports and impose travel bans on Danish citizens suspected of planning to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight.
At least 115 Danes have become foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq since Syria's civil war broke out in 2011, 19 of whom have been killed, according to the Danish Security and Intelligence Service PET.

In France, Prime Minister Manuel Valls revealed that more than 1,550 French citizens or residents are involved in terrorist networks in Syria and Iraq. The figures have almost tripled since January 2014.

Addressing the National Assembly on April 13, Valls said that a controversial new law aimed at increasing the powers of French intelligence services was needed to prevent another Charlie Hebdo-style of attack in France. The law allows the intelligence services to carry out surveillance activities without first obtaining a judge's authorization. Valls refuted the idea that the law is the equivalent to a French "Patriot Act."

An opinion poll published on April 13 found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of French citizens were in favor of restricting civil liberties in order to combat terrorism. Only 33% said they were opposed to having their freedoms reduced, although this number increased significantly among younger respondents.

On April 27, the Justice Ministry said that French police are investigating 125 terrorism cases connected to the conflict in Syria. Most of the cases involve people hoping to help the Islamic State. Of the 166 people who have been taken in for questioning, 113 have been jailed and are awaiting trial. Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told Le Parisien newspaper that 39 cases have been opened, and 35 people charged, since the beginning of 2015.

On April 22, French police arrested Sid Ahmed Ghlam, a 24-year-old Algerian computer science student who was suspected of planning an attack on Christian churches in Villejuif, a suburb south of Paris. He was arrested after apparently shooting himself by accident. Police found three Kalashnikov assault rifles, handguns, ammunition and bulletproof vests, as well as documents linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, in his car and home. Police said Ghlam had expressed a desire to join the Islamic State in Syria.

On April 8, hackers claiming to belong to the Islamic State attacked TV5Monde, a French television network, and knocked it off the air globally. The network broadcasts in more than 200 countries. "We are no longer able to broadcast any of our channels. Our websites and social media sites are no longer under our control and are all displaying claims of responsibility by Islamic State," the broadcaster's director general Yves Bigot said. The hackers accused French President François Hollande of having committed "an unforgivable mistake" by joining a US-led military coalition carrying out air strikes against IS positions in Iraq and Syria.

On April 4, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, called for the number of mosques in France to be doubled over the next two years. Speaking at a gathering of French Islamic organisations in the Paris suburb of Le Bourget, Boubakeur said that 2,200 mosques are "not enough" for the "seven million Muslims living in France."

On April 15, a 21-year-old Muslim was arrested after destroying more than 200 gravestones at a Catholic cemetery in Saint-Roch de Castres, a town near Toulouse in southern France. Police said the man was sent to the hospital because he was in a "delusional state and unable to communicate."

Meanwhile, a 15-year-old Muslim girl in the northeastern town of Charleville-Mezieres was banned from class twice for wearing a long black skirt, which the head teacher considered to be a religious symbol and a violation of France's secularism laws.

In Germany, Dutch politician Geert Wilders addressed a rally of the German grassroots anti-Islamization movement known as PEGIDA in the eastern city of Dresden on April 13. Wilders said that there is "nothing wrong with being proud German patriots. There is nothing wrong with wanting Germany to remain free and democratic. There is nothing wrong with preserving our own Judeo-Christian civilization. That is our duty." He added:
"Most of the politicians, media, churches and academics are looking away from the threat of Islamization. They are afraid. But you are not.
"We hate no one. We fight for our freedom and hence we object to totalitarian Islam, but we do not hate Muslims. Neither do we hate our political opponents who are protesting here in Dresden against us. I am happy that we in Germany and the Netherlands are allowed to demonstrate against each other. Without violence. Without hatred."
Geert Wilders addresses a rally of PEGIDA supporters in Dresden, Germany, on April 13, 2015. (Image source: RT video screenshot)

On April 8, Federal Police Chief Dieter Romann revealed that more than 57,000 people had tried to enter the country illegally in 2014, a 75% jump in comparison to 2013. In addition, police arrested 27,000 people who had managed to enter the country and were living there illegally, a 40% jump. Most of the illegal immigrants were from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Kosovo, Serbia, Somalia and Syria.

On April 22, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a center-right think tank based in Berlin, announced the launch of the "Muslimisches Forum Deutschland." The new forum aims to promote the voices of liberal Muslims in order to counter-balance the influence of conservative Muslim groups in Germany.

On April 30, police in Oberursel, a town near Frankfurt, foiled an alleged Islamic terror attack on a professional cycling race. Authorities detained a 35-year-old Turkish-German man and his 34-year-old Turkish wife. Police were alerted after the man attempted to purchase large amounts of bomb-making materials under a false name. Police said the couple was active in Frankfurt's Salafist community and were supporters of al-Qaeda.

In Greece, Chatitze Molla Sali, 65-year-old Muslim widow in north-eastern province of Thrace has taken an inheritance dispute to the European Court of Human Rights. After the woman's husband died in 2008, she was to receive his estate, but his family disputed the inheritance based on Islamic Sharia law.

Although Sali's won her case in a civil court, Greece's Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that matters of inheritance involving members of the Muslim minority must be settled by a mufti (Islamic scholar), in accordance with the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which allows minority communities in Greece and Turkey to live according to their existing religious customs.

The Greek government is apparently wary of abandoning the Lausanne Treaty for fear of retaliation against the Greek community in Turkey. Sali said: "I was overwhelmed. But I decided to fight and take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights. I'm a Greek citizen and Europe must uphold my rights."

In Hungary, plans emerged for the construction of a mega-mosque in Budapest. A YouTube video posted by the Turkish government's Religious Affairs Directorate, the Diyanet, shows an architectural rendition of a sprawling complex that includes a mosque with four towering minarets, a cultural center, a guest house and extensive gardens.

Also in April, controversy erupted over the Hungarian edition of French author Michel Houellebecq's new novel "Submission," which has a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood winning the French presidential elections and introducing Islamic Sharia law in the country. While the cover of the French edition has no images whatsoever, the Hungarian cover shows an image of Mona Lisa covered in an Islamic veil. The French newspaper L'Obs claimed that it is a manifestation of "Islamophobia."

In Italy, supporters of the Islamic State posted photographs of well-known landmarks in Rome other Italian cities. The pictures included small pieces of paper that included the logo of the Islamic State along with threatening notes. One read: "We are on your streets, we are locating targets." Another read: "We are waiting for zero hour."

On April 24, police arrested 10 members of a jihadist cell that was accused of planning terror attacks in Italy, including a possible assassination attempt against the Pope. The cell, comprised of Pakistanis and Afghans, was operating from the island of Sardinia. Among those detained was Sultan Wali Khan, the head of the Islamic community of Olbia, a city in northeastern Sardinia. Police said intelligence intercepts indicated that Khan had been in regular contact with two Pakistani suicide bombers who were believed to have made their way to Rome. At least eight members of the cell remain at large.

Meanwhile, police in Sicily arrested 15 Muslim immigrants from the Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal for allegedly throwing 12 fellow passengers into the Mediterranean Sea during a voyage from Libya to Italy on the night of April 14. The victims were murdered because they were Christians. The men are being charged with homicide "aggravated by religious hatred."
In the Netherlands, a group of Muslim parents are suing the Dutch government for failing to prevent their children from travelling to Syria to join the Islamic State. The lawsuit is being initiated by Mohamed Nidalha, a Moroccan immigrant living in Leiden, whose Dutch-born son Reda is now in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State.

In an interview with Radio West, Nidalha said he went to the police asking for help, but they told him they could do nothing because Reda, who is now 20 years old, was an adult when he decided to travel to Syria last summer.

According to Nidalha, Reda was radicalized through the Internet, where he came into contact with jihadist recruiter aptly named Abu Jihad. In a phone call, Reda told his sister that he travelled to Syria to "help small children and raped women."

Nidalha said he decided to file the lawsuit after Turkish police arrested a 27-year-old Dutch woman from Leiden in early April who was allegedly attempting to travel to Syria. Turkish authorities said the woman, identified only as Monique S., was arrested at a hotel in Antalya, where she was waiting to be taken to Syria. Based on an Interpol arrest warrant, Turkey sent the woman back to the Netherlands. According to Nidalha, there is a double standard at play because Monique was returned to the Netherlands but Reda was not.

Meanwhile, a 23-year-old jihadist from Amsterdam named Omar H. was reportedly killed on the battlefield in northern Syria. He had slipped out of the Netherlands in late 2014. The Islamic State congratulated Omar's parents over the death of their son. Another Dutch jihadi said: "Omar has become a martyr, just like he had hoped. It sounds cruel, but I am glad for him and his family."

In Norway, the Dagbladet newspaper on April 23 reported that an Islamic State fighter who was filmed beheading a man in the Syrian city of Raqqa is a Norwegian who goes by the name Abu Shahrazaad al-Narwegi (Arabic for the Norwegian). The victim was a former Sharia judge who had tried to escape from the Islamic State and settle in Qatar. Norwegian police estimate that more than 140 Norwegians have joined the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

In Spain, police in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia arrested eleven members of a jihadist cell that was planning to behead a random person in Barcelona. The cell, which prosecutors say was actively recruiting jihadists for the Islamic State, is also accused of planning to bomb public and private buildings in Catalonia, including a Jewish bookstore in Barcelona.

The cell — known as the Islamic Brotherhood for the Preaching of Jihad — was broken up on April 8, when more than 350 police officers conducted seven raids in five Catalan municipalities. According to police, the cell's primary objective was to show that terrorist attacks such as those perpetrated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria could be carried out in the West.

In Switzerland, a 25-year-old man became the first suspected Swiss jihadist to be prevented from travelling abroad when he was arrested at Zurich airport on April 7 before boarding a flight to Turkey. The individual, whose identity has not been made public, was released on April 20. He has been banned from travelling and has had his passport and ID confiscated.
According to the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service, there have been 55 known cases of people leaving Switzerland between 2001 and September 2014 to fight in jihadist conflicts — including 35 just since May 2013. Of the total, 31 went to Iraq or Syria, while 24 went to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

On April 18, a 21-year-old Swiss-Turkish jihadist who was holding his wife and child "hostage" in Syria released them near the town of Reyhanli, on the Syrian-Turkish border. The woman, a German national who converted to Islam, followed the man to Turkey in October 2014 thinking that the couple would be vacationing there. Once in Turkey, however, the husband took the woman to the Idlib region of Syria and held here there against her will. The child was born in March.

The woman's plight came to light in early March, when Swiss public television's Rundschau news program aired an audio clip from the woman saying: "I want to go home. Please help me."

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office said the man, who has had a Swiss passport since 1995, joined the al-Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaeda operating in Syria and Lebanon. In a social media message, he wrote: "I've come here [to Syria] to behead infidels. I am ready. At some point we'll be in Switzerland."
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group

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